Playwright With A Genius For The Absurd Was 75

Christopher Durang, certainly one of American’s most acclaimed and achieved playwrights whose works like Past Remedy, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You and the Tony-winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike have been as incisive as they have been absurdly comedian, died Tuesday night time at his residence in Pipersville, Pa., in Bucks County. He was 75.

The workplace of his agent, Patrick Herold, confirmed the dying. Durang’s husband, John Augustine, mentioned the playwright died peacefully because of issues from logopenic major progressive aphasia. Durang had been identified with the sickness – a type of Alzheimer’s illness that impedes the flexibility to course of language – in 2016. He remained largely out of the general public highlight since his situation was made public in 2022.

In February, New York’s Dramatists Guild introduced that the playwright would obtain its 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award on Might 6, inserting Durang on a prestigious roster alongside such previous awardees as John Guare, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Miller.

Born Christopher Ferdinand Durang on January 2, 1949, Durang soared to fame together with his beloved (and controversial) 1980 play Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, successful that yr’s Obie Award for Greatest Playwright.

The general public breakthrough of Sister Mary Ignatius adopted a celebrated pupil profession on the Yale College of Drama, the place he started friendships and collaborations with classmates and future theater luminaries Sigourney Weaver, Albert Innaurato and Wendy Wasserstein. His first skilled manufacturing, co-authored with Innaurato, got here in 1974: The Idiots Karamazov, starring then-student Meryl Streep, earned a assessment within the New York Instances wherein Durang and Innaurato have been deemed “Yale’s response to Tom Stoppard and Vladimir Nabokov.”

Different performs quickly adopted, together with, in 1976, the Off Broadway farce Titanic starring Weaver and, as a part of the identical invoice, Das Lusitania Songspiel, co-written by and co-starring Durang and Weaver.

The next yr, Durang’s A Historical past of the American Movie was offered on Broadway, incomes him a Tony nomination for Greatest E-book of a Musical. In 1979, Durang and Weaver rewrote Das Lusitania Songspiel and offered it at Westside Arts Theatre Off Broadway. The cabaret-style revue, which satirized Brecht and Weill in addition to then-current exhibits together with Evita, earned Durang and Weaver Drama Desk nominations.

Durang’s watershed yr was 1980, when his one-act play Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You opened on the Ensemble Studio Theatre Off Off Broadway, receiving rave critiques and quite a few accolades. The next yr, the sharply satiric comedy, wherein the title character presents a lecture on the fundamentals of Catholicism solely to be interrupted by 4 of her former college students, moved to Off Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons.

The play was as controversial because it was profitable: The talk-show host Phil Donahue offered a full hour of his nationwide present to a dialogue of the play. The unique Off Broadway engagement, initially starring Elizabeth Franz, ran for greater than two years, with substitute stars together with Nancy Marchand, Mary Louise Wilson, Kathleen Chalfont, Patricia Gage and Lynn Redgrave.

Durang adopted Sister Mary Ignatius in 1981 with the Off Broadway hit Past Remedy starring Weaver and Stephen Collins, with route by Jerry Zaks. A revised model was staged the next yr on Broadway in a manufacturing starring Dianne Wiest, John Lithgow and newcomer David Hyde Pierce. The comedy, about two New Yorkers who search to strengthen their relationship with the help of their respective psychiatrists, has been staged innumerable occasions world wide; a broadly panned 1987 movie model directed (and largely rewritten) by Robert Altman was largely disowned by the playwright, who known as the challenge “a really sad expertise and consequence.”

The Altman movie however, the Nineteen Eighties noticed Durang solidify his lofty place within the theatrical pantheon, with such broadly staged works as Child With The Bathwater, The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Laughing Wild. Durang continued his successful streak by means of the Nineteen Nineties (Intercourse and Longing, Betty’s Summer time Trip) and into the twenty first century (his Miss Witherspoon was a 2006 Pulitzer finalist).

Durang noticed what was maybe his crowning achievement in 2012, with Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, a modern-day comedy about three grownup siblings that borrowed freely (and hilariously) from Chekhov. Following unique stagings on the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey and Off Broadway at at Lincoln Heart’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, the play transferred to Broadway in 2013 with a solid that included Weaver, Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen and, in a Tony-nominated star-making efficiency, Billy Magnussen. The play received the 2013 Tony Award for Greatest Play.

Along with playwriting, Durang was a frequent performer on the cabaret circuit and appeared as an actor in such movies as The Secret of My Success (1987), Mr. North (1988), Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989), In The Spirit (1990), HouseSitter (1992) and The Cowboy Method (1994).

In 1993 he carried out, together with Julie Andrews, Stephen Collins, Michael Rupert and Rachel York within the well-liked Off Broadway Sondheim revue Placing It Collectively.

In a 1986 episode of Saturday Evening Dwell hosted by his longtime pal and collaborator Weaver, Durang participated with Weaver in two sketches. Within the 1987 TV particular Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin starring Carol Burnett, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams, Durang contributed a sketch titled “The Funeral” that featured Burnett as a grieving widow and Williams as an obnoxious intruder at her husband’s wake. Williams received an Emmy for the particular.

Data on survivors was not instantly obtainable.


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